Bass It Up
Born and raised in Belgium (Turnhout), Arky Starch is an accomplished bass guitarist who plays guitar and keyboard. He specializes in DUB and REGGAE music.
Arky Starch’s artistic journey began at a young age, with his older brother Lowie buying him his first bass guitar in 1994. Membership in various bands followed. During these years, he honed his bass player and musician skills. Along the way, he also collaborated with Heartwash and Yosa (Dub Tales), to name a few. These experiences helped him expand his musical knowledge above and beyond the realms of just bass guitar and composition, harmonization, and the rudimentary components of Roots and Dub. In 2004 Starch began to branch out as an artist, focusing on understanding using software, MIDI, and technology to create complex, intricate music.
Since June 2020, he has worked with Jesse King, aka DUBMATIX, to master all his songs and to assist in building a solid sound for his musical production.
Arky Starch’s discography includes two EPs, ‘Dub Faith’ and ‘Give it a Walk’ featuring Ragga Yves, a debut album, ‘Soul Sensi,’ on the Dubophonic label, and six singles with Micky B. + 3 singles with Ragga Yves.
Bass it Up
“Being a bass player, I wanted to highlight my specialty and came up with the idea of “BASS IT UP,” and at the same time had a vision of the artwork: me standing next to my Bass with some gear and looking toward my Bass like it is going to explode.
I started working on new tracks, and this time I wanted to improve the individual sounds, like the skanks and other instrumentation. So I asked Danny Elmes to play some guitar riffs, which can be heard on “Rub a Rub it” and “Power Dub.”
It was also time to treat myself with a new Warwick bass and amp in order to improve the live bass sound. So, the title and artwork were automatically ideas that gave the new album the impression I was looking for.
Roaring High and Stigmata I wrote in the same week. I was mixing in the oriental sounds, Sax, Arabic violin, Eastern percussion, SFX, and a more UK-style drum in combination with a good bass. Stigmata was a pre-released single and featured on the IRIE TV a while ago as it was my debut video clip. So these were the first tracks that kicked off the album.”
Arky Starch INTERVIEW
IRIE. Take us back to your childhood. Was music an essential part of your life growing up?
Arky Starch. My childhood wasn’t always a bed of roses. Reggae music and smoking ganja were a kind of refuge or lift from reality, and Bob Marley’s lyrics always gave me a lot of inspiration from the age of fifteen through my youth. I was a real rebel, also listening to hip hop (Beasty Boys, Public Enemy, Ice T), punk, grunge, and you could always find me on the street either skateboarding or playing football in the hood. It was always a gathering in my house where we smoked weed and listened to music. My brother Lowie had a massive cd and vinyl collection, so when he was out working, I would listen to records like “Kaya” from Bob Marley & The Wailers. I listened to other reggae artists, including Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Inner Circle, Lee Perry, and Alpha Blondy.
IRIE. How did the bass guitar become your choice of instrument as a dub reggae artist?
Arky Starch. Lowie (who is a singer-songwriter/guitarist) bought my first bass guitar in 1994, and we formed our first band. I still remember us walking through the store (Herentals, Belgium), selecting a second-hand Fender bass imitation.
In 1996 some high school buddies and I formed the band “Dread Invasion.” We rehearsed daily after school and started playing gigs all over Belgium. We played a mix of covers and original songs: Guess who’s coming to dinner (Black Uhuru), Ganja Smuggling (Eek-a-mouse), Cry Africa (Burning Spear), Don’t look back (Peter Tosh), Waiting in vain & Natural mystic (BMW), Gangsters Paradise (Coolio), Hey Joe (Jimi Hendrix) were some of the covers we played.
When I finished high school in 1997, I got a job and bought a Warwick Wamp with a 1x15inch Celestion cab and a new bass. It was always my dream to be a professional musician. So, driven by my passion for creating my songs, I start my autodidact journey.
In 1997 my bandmembers and I bought an Atari with Cubase, which I used later on for rehearsing on my own and on which I started making basic riddims. We purchased a Tascam 688 to record our music, and my brother had a 12-track Soundcraft mixing board where we connected delays, phasers, reverbs, and multi-effects to experiment with sound effects. Bass has always been my instrument of choice, and creating new bass lines is just so much fun and fundamental.
IRIE. Who are some of the musical influences that inspired you to become the dub reggae artist you are today?
Arky Starch. The bass players Robbie Shakespeare and Aston Barret were of enormous influence, as well as Flee and Sting. Bob Marley and Lee Perry have significantly influenced me, both philosophical and musical. I was reading articles, watching documentaries, and listening to the numerous albums they released.
IRIE. How would you describe the Arky Starch sound?
Arky Starch. My sound is a combination of two worlds, analog and digital. I play Bass, guitar, keyboard, drums, and percussion, which I combine or create with loops and samples. Variation and originality are two important goals. Over the last two years, my sound underwent a proper make-over as I gained a lot of knowledge by being eager to learn.
IRIE. You just released your new album, BASS IT UP. Congratulations! What is the inspiration behind this particular album?
Arky Starch. Cheers, I appreciate the support and love for my work! The title” BASS IT UP” came together with the vision of the artwork where I would stand next to my Bass and blow it up, so instead of Blow, I put Bass. The picture is taken on our rooftop terrace in Morocco. “Power Dub” is a track I composed in 2006; all the others are new tracks except “Represent Real Rock,” which is based on the Real Rock riddim from Studio One. “Migration to Abyssinia” was the last track I added to the album. The first Muslims were intimidated, humiliated, or even tortured in Arabia. Hence, the Prophet suggested eventually migrating to Abyssinia (formerly Ethiopia) (The Kingdom of Aksum) as there was an ancient Christian King who was a just King. He will allow you to worship without interfering in your religion. Offering the best hospitality and neighboring treatment and this story was the inspiration behind that title.
IRIE. Where do you get your inspiration for producing your music?
Arky Starch. After a break of 9 years, my wife Zainab bought me an acoustic guitar for my birthday in 2019. So I looked up my old notebook with songs and started jamming and automatically composing.
In March 2020, during the first lockdown, I began to buy new gear and discussed with Zainab my plan of going further on that path where I started in 1994, and it felt so good; like it was a piece of me that had been missing. We are what we are!
I also had the vision of working together with other professionals for mastering and promotion in the same period as I realized that was a missing shackle. So, in August 2020, five months after I bought my new gear, I released my first EP, “Dub Faith,” with six tracks. Jah has always been a big inspiration, and I believe in his guidance. I like to use notebooks where I write down ideas, chord progressions (which I compose on guitar or keyboard), lyrics, titles, parameters all kinds of stuff that are important for my production and creative process. During mixing, I make notes while listening to the mixes, and these notes will help to make small changes until I reach a point where I am satisfied.
IRIE. We discovered that Dubmatix masters your music. How did the two of you connect?
Arky Starch. It was I who reached out to Dubmatix. When I googled mastering engineers, I stumbled onto his website. I remember spending hours composing that initial email and selecting a few tracks to review.
Working with him has been a humbling experience, and I picked up so many skills about Eq, panning, frequencies, effects, mastering, structure, and instrumentation. We also did a Zoom Session about mixing tricks and tips.
The mixing I did myself, and Dubmatix does the mastering of this album at Renegade Studio in Toronto. During the mastering process, Dubmatix can make suggestions to work with that improve the mix.
Editing the tracks and adding effects is my job, and I love it. I have always had a talent for using software and logical thinking.
A grateful feeling comes over me that I am so lucky that this master musician/producer wanted to help me to master my music. I am a big fan of his music and sound/sample packs from Reggae-Loops.
IRIE. Is there a track on BASS IT UP that resonates most with you?
Arky Starch. “Power Dub” original lyric goes like: “Whatcha gonna do now when you got the power to make a change. Will you make it positive or increase just the negative? What you going to do now? With that power, the power of change.
Being negative is easy, so I really try to reply and communicate in a positive way as it is most constructive and supportive.
IRIE. What do you hope your fans and first-time listeners feel listening to BASS IT UP?
Arky Starch. A positive mood that made them move and feel good.
IRIE. We know that you are hard at work building your new music studio. Was having your label and music studio part of the bigger plan for Arky Starch as a musician?
Arky Starch. In May, we are moving house, and I will have a new studio room which will be another milestone in my musical journey.
A future plan is to start a production house (Roar Like a Bass) to help talented people create a debut release and make sure they can perform in a compact format to promote their musical works.
Having a good foundation and studio is a must as a creative artist/producer.
IRIE. If you could change one thing about the music industry that could benefit independent artists, what would that be?
Arky Starch. Being new to the industry, I noticed in my first few years that there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they come in many forms. For example, trying to get money out of your pockets or taking part in your earnings by promising a lot but doing nothing. So being vigilant and aware is a must. Keep putting your trust in Jah, our Creator, and protector. He rules us all, and the righteous will always be one step ahead seen! Being straightforward has helped me make the right decisions. So, I wish the industry would be more open-minded, and less monetizing-minded so more upcoming talents could have the ability to flourish. Instead of being a tool, we would become souls that are free to create what we are supposed to create and not what they think we should create.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the IRIE audience?
Arky Starch. It is not what you do but how you do it, and it is not what you say but how you say it – Michael Rose. Jah knows what is in our hearts and minds all the time seen! So believe, and you will see, anything is possible.
I am currently working on a new album called “Horns, Bass and Passion” this will be released at the end of this year.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my interview.